As we age, staying healthy is more important than ever. Physical health can affect mental and cognitive health, agility, and flexibility, and influence mood. After the last three years, seniors and their families are acutely aware of the importance of taking proactive measures to protect their health. But maintaining good health and vitality doesn’t have to be complicated – here are some of the easy, basic ways to keep feeling great as you grow older.
- Begin an exercise routine: Physical activity supercharges the immune system regardless of age – and is one of the most critical healthy choices a senior can make. The more active an individual is, the more capable the body is of fighting inflammation and infection. While senior citizens may have to adjust exercise plans according to their current ability, especially if they haven’t been active lately, exercise does not have to be vigorous to be beneficial for good health. Low-impact activities like swimming, walking, or water aerobics are typically safe for seniors. Try to work out for 20 minutes daily, but check with your physician before trying any new exercises. Developing and maintaining muscle strength is especially important for older adults, so consider lifting light weights or doing yoga if physically able.
- Keep your hands clean: Everyone now understands the importance of handwashing to maintain good health. Viruses can live on specific surfaces for up to 24 hours, and touching that surface before touching your face can make you sick. To maximum health, wash your hands in warm soapy water several times a day. Antibacterial hand sanitizer can also offer vital protection throughout the day.
- Ask your doctor about supplements: Many nutritional supplements defend a healthy immune system. But again, always check with a physician before taking any new supplements, especially if you currently take prescription medications. Supplements to support immune health may include vitamin D, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and calcium.
- Get serious about nutrition: Fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins are instrumental for a healthy immune system and can protect against bacteria and viruses. Fruits and vegetables provide potent antioxidants that protect against cell damage. Seniors should also minimize the amount of sugary and fatty foods in their diet, as these types of food can trigger inflammation and weaken immune response.
- Learn to manage stress: Chronic stress will initiate the over-production of cortisol, the primary stress hormone. Cortisol can inhibit the immune system and make you more susceptible to illness. Senior adults can lower stress by incorporating exercise, getting enough sleep, and engaging in enjoyable activities.
- Get adequate sleep: Adequate sleep reduces stress, develops a more effective immune system, and improves focus and memory. It is easier to ward off sickness when you achieve 8 hours of quality sleep every night. If older adults struggle with insomnia, they should consult a doctor to identify the root cause of the problem.
- Listen to your doctor: Your physician will advise as to the best preventative measures to avoid infection. Scheduling an annual physical exam can also keep you healthy by spotting illnesses before they become serious. Diabetes and high blood pressure, both common in older adults, can be treated more effectively if diagnosed early.
Finally, try to limit your contact with anyone who is ill – and avoid mingling in crowded spaces whenever possible. By taking proactive steps and making healthy decisions, most people can reduce their vulnerability to flu and other seasonal viruses – and keep their immune systems strong all year long.
A Banyan Residence is a memory care and assisted living facility located in Venice.